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Power of three: Why an owner, GM and prospect control the '09 draft

"I like the angle,'' former USC quarterback Mark Sanchez said to me a little after 11 Eastern on Sunday night. "I hope it still looks good Saturday. I hope it doesn't blow up on you.''

Draft angles always blow up, and no one sells insurance for my draft week 2009 plotline. But here goes: The three most influential men atop the 2009 draft are Scott Pioli, Dan Snyder and Sanchez. Briefly, why:

Pioli, the rookie Kansas City general manager, has the distinction in this decade of being part of the tradingest draft-day team in the league. Between 2000 and 2008, the Patriots draft room, run by coach Bill Belichick and Pioli, made 28 draft-weekend trades. The Pats traded up 12 times, but more significantly, they traded down 16 times.

In the last 10 days, I've spent hours (only my cell phone company knows how many for sure) foraging for crumbs for my Sports Illustrated mock, in your mailboxes Wednesday and Thursday. And the one thing I've heard on most calls is, "Well, you know Pioli wants to get out of his pick. He wants to trade down.''

It's true. He does want out. There's not a player Kansas City believes is worth third-pick-in-the-first-round money. Do you remember what the third pick got last year? Matt Ryan, the Atlanta quarterback, signed a six-year, $72 million deal, with $34.8 million guaranteed. Pioli can argue until he's Chiefs-crimson in the face, but his pick at three is going to fetch the player $11 million a year, minimum, regardless of position. Pioli's not picking a quarterback, so there's no chance a player at three will be worth that money. My feeling is Pioli woke up this morning with an itchy trigger finger.

Snyder, the Washington owner, has one pick in the top 75, the 13th overall. He was willing to trade that pick plus next year's first-round pick and something else to get Jay Cutler from Denver to replace Jason Campbell at quarterback. That failed, but I'm told Snyder is beyond smitten with Sanchez and will likely pursue him this week. How can he do that? He's going to have to part with either his next two first-round picks, or a slew of picks, including this year's one.

I spoke to someone close to Snyder over the weekend, and this person said Snyder is not going to allow next year's first-rounder to be put in a trade. Maybe. Maybe not. This person also said he thought it was highly unlikely the Redskins could muster up the ammo to go get Sanchez. If Snyder wants to get up to No. 3 to assure himself the shot at Sanchez, he's going to have to bend and give up the to pick in 2010.

One other thing: At the scouting combine, Snyder had the not-so-secret dinner with the agent for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Speck? A week later, the Redskins went on to sign Haynesworth, their No. 1-target on the free market, five hours into free-agency.

Last Friday, the last night teams could host, wine and dine players from out of town in their home market, Snyder and vice president Vinny Cerrato took Sanchez out to dinner at an Italian place in downtown D.C. after Sanchez had spent the day with Washington coaches and personnel people. Big deal? Maybe. Maybe not.

Sanchez, the in-demand quarterback, has visited nine teams between one (Detroit) and 19 (Tampa Bay) in the first round. The excitement level on him around the league is ratcheting up. I bet 40 percent of the teams like him better than they do Matthew Stafford, though Stafford's significantly more experienced. As one coach in the top 15 told me Sunday morning: "Sanchez really is an interesting prospect. There's so much he does that's instinctive, and he can make all the throws, even though he doesn't have the arm strength of Stafford. He sort of oozes confidence.''

Good quarterbacks get the blood boiling in coaches and GMs, and in this case, owners. It also doesn't hurt that Sanchez is a pretty focused kid -- even though he's the kind of flip leader who should get along well with vets. Sanchez threw at his old high school in Mission Viejo on Sunday evening, then went to prepare for an important group project in his Communication 321/Argumentation and Advocacy class. He'll make a speech in the class this morning, and he's on course to graduate on time, May 15. "I'm throwing because in 10 days I'll be at some mini-camp having to show my best,'' he said. "I have to be ready.''

As do the teams at the top of the draft. One thing they have to do if and when the Redskins call with an offer is throw the old trade-value chart away. That's the chart Jimmy Johnson and the Cowboys created two decades ago to figure out the real value of not only a first-round draft pick but also the value of the 12th pick versus the 28th pick. They're both first-rounders, but obviously they're not equal. Today, the reason the draft value chart is bogus is because the money paid to the highest draftees make the high picks "a millstone,'' as Detroit Chief Operation Officer Tom Lewand said.

If the Redskins make calls to Kansas City and Seattle and maybe Cleveland to try to get the pick to take Sanchez, let's go over the trade chart value. It sounds like I'm waiving the Redskins' pompons when I write this, but I'm going to argue that Washington should get a better deal than the chart says, because of the bloated salaries in the top 10 of the first round.

The trade-value chart pegs an equal trade between Washington and Kansas City as the Chiefs' first-round pick this year for Washington's first- and third- and fifth-round picks this year and the 'Skins' first-round pick next year. A first-round pick in a following year is devalued by about 20 percent or more, depending on the organization's trade-chart variables. Let's do the math. The third pick this year is valued at 2,200 points. The 13th pick has a value of 1,150. The third-round pick is worth 190 points and the fifth-rounder 35 points. Next year's one -- the 16th overall pick, because you have to assume you're getting a middle-of-the-pack pick -- is worth 800 with the 20-percent discount. So the Redskins would be acquiring a pick with a value of 2,200 points and trading four picks with a combined value of 2,175.

But that formula doesn't take into account $34.8 million in guarantees and $12-million-a-year averages. What I think is fair for Washington, and for the team selling off Sanchez, is this: first- and third-round picks this year, and a second-rounder next year. Forget the points. It's just fair value.

Now it's up to Washington, or another Sanchez suitor, to make the call to try to get him.

"I think it's going to be an interesting week,'' Sanchez said. "I have no idea what's going to happen. I really don't. In other drafts, the top seemed pretty clear a few days before the draft. Not this year.''

Sanchez feels like the pivot point. After Stafford goes one to Detroit and a tackle (Jason Smith or Eugene Monroe) two to the Rams, it's anyone's guess, starting with Kansas City. Seattle likes Sanchez and Michael Crabtree (and a tackle, maybe) at four. I've heard Cleveland (picking fifth) and Washington have already discussed a deal if Sanchez is still on the board at five. I don't expect Sanchez to be there at five.

Sanchez described his experience as "surreal, awesome. Every team seems like you're their guy. So in that way, the picture is really as clear as mud. It's an intense poker game, and no one's showing their hand.''

That's why this draft season is so much fun. It's going to be an interesting week.

***

What I want to do now is try to tell you a few things I've learned on the phone and via text messages in the last week or so, in no particular order:

• Detroit, as of midnight Sunday, wasn't tipping its hand or negotiating with anyone for the first pick. Tom Condon, the agent for both Stafford and Jason Smith, was in Detroit Thursday, and the agents for Aaron Curry were at the Lions on Saturday. No significance to either visit because the Lions didn't tell either side who they were picking.

• I don't believe Detroit has to have a deal with a player before picking him No. 1. I believe the Lions want to have a deal done, surely, but if management is virtually certain the player won't hold out, it's likely not to be a deal-breaker.

• St. Louis, at two, is divided on tackles Jason Smith and Monroe. Smith has an edge, but it's a little one.

• I think it's going to come down to tackle Andre Smith and defensive tackle B.J. Raji for Cincinnati at No. 6.

• New England loves UConn cornerback Darius Butler. New England is smoke-screening by letting on that it loves UConn cornerback Darius Butler.

Kenny Britt is flaky. Darrius Heyward-Bey's hands and route-running are suspect. Hakeem Nicks was overweight and not in great shape when the Ravens worked him out Friday. In other words, the receivers are a suspect group, and a few of them we thought would be picked in the first round are going in the second.

• San Francisco won't pick Josh Freeman.

• Denver won't pick Josh Freeman.

• New Orleans is going defense with its only pick, at 14, in the first three rounds.

• Some teams are scared off by a sesmoid bone problem in one of big back Beanie Wells' feet.

• Two teams I spoke with failed Monroe on their physical exams because of his knee history; one said Monroe would likely be fine for three or four years, minimum, but the team would be worried about relying on Monroe for a 10-year career. I hear this, but I think it's overly cautious. Anthony Munoz had 14 teams fail him on their team physicals in 1980, and he went on to be a durable Hall of Famer, maybe the best tackle of all time.

Enjoy the week. I'll be in St. Louis on Wednesday and Thursday, then moving on to Kansas City on Thursday night through the draft. I'm hoping the needy Missouri franchises, picking at two and three, will give me enough news to write about over the weekend.

"Jason Peters is the best left tackle in football.''-- Philadelphia coach Andy Reid, after dealing first, fourth- and sixth-round picks to Buffalo for the Pro Bowl tackle.

Not last year he wasn't.

"John Madden is the best sports broadcaster -- not just the best football broadcaster -- of all time.''-- NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol, after Madden retired last week.

"Chad Johnson called me today. Crying. He wonders why everyone can get traded but him.''-- Former Johnson teammate T.J. Houshmandzadeh, now with Seattle, on NFL Network Friday night.

"Players in this draft have sent up more red flares from players than Gilligan and Skipper ever did.''-- Bengals.com columnist Geoff Hobson, on the sketchy nature of players, some due to injury, some to substance abuse, some due to personality issues.

Virginia tackle Eugene Monroe has a 60-year-old brother.

Including 2009, here are the regular-season dates of the meetings between New England and Indianapolis since 2005:

Nov. 7, 2005.

Nov. 5, 2006.

Nov. 4, 2007.

Nov. 2, 2008.

Nov. 15, 2009.

November is the autumn month that television ratings are most valued to the major networks. So as long as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are active, and as long as there's a Brady-Manning game on the schedule, the league's going to match them in November.

This isn't gospel, but it may give you an idea if your team is going to be very active on the trade front this weekend. It's a chart of the number of draft-weekend trades the teams have made in the last five years, and the moral of the story is pretty simple: Don't expect Cincinnati and Arizona to be very fluid.

It's the new green me.

It's not like I'm going to be surrendering my car now than I'm a city guy, but being without it is increasingly enjoyable. Check out this 28-hour experience that began Thursday morning:

Walk 10 minutes to the Back Bay train station to catch a train to New York.

Take the train to New York.

Take a cab to visit buddy Jack Bowers in the hospital after surgery.

Take a cab to SI in midtown Manhattan for an afternoon of meetings.

Take the subway to Queens for Mets-Padres.

Take the subway to Manhattan after the game.

Walk to Penn Station.

Take the train back to Boston.

Walk the 10 minutes home.

Not an unpleasant trip on any of the legs. You people in cities have been hiding how great it is to get along without a car.

Quite a week of news for the Z-man. We've got more teams on board with extremely charitable donations, and we've got an online auction site set up so you can start perusing and, hopefully, bidding on some interesting trips and experiences.

As most of you know, we'll be holding a benefit for SI pro football maven Paul Zimmerman on May 18 at 7 p.m. at Mayfair Farms in West Orange, N.J., with Giants coach Tom Coughlin and Jets coach Rex Ryan appearing with me on a panel to rev up attendees for the 2009 football season. Dr. Z suffered three strokes last November, leaving him unable to read, speak or write, and we're raising money for him to undergo some aggressive treatment so he can resume the life of writing -- we hope -- that he longs for. Tickets to the dinner (open bar begins at 6:15) are $225, or $1,500 for a table of eight, and can be had by writing a checking payable to "Dr. Z/Nothing Is Impossible Foundation'' and sending to: Dr. Z/Nothing is Impossible Foundation, 21 Pine St., Suite 202, Rockaway, N.J., 07866.

This week, Buffalo owner Ralph Wilson checked in with a donation that blew us away. Raiders executive Amy Trask came through with a fun day at Raiders training camp -- a VIP outing for six, complete with lunch, at the Raider camp in Napa, Calif., and if I may make a recommendation, the sights and sounds of an NFL camp in the midst of such splendor as the Napa Valley is not to be missed; you Raider fans out there know what I'm talking about. And there's a very nice Eagles trip, or actually trips: four tickets to the Eagles-Giants in Philadelphia, onfield passes before the game ... and a second fun day, with passes for four to a day at Eagles camp in Bethlehem, Pa. Thanks to one and all for coming together to help Zim.

We also owe a big debt of gratitude to our friends at the online auction site cmarket, of Cambridge, Mass., for donating their services. Today, for the first time, you can begin the bidding process online. Here's how you access the site, and begin bidding:

Go to www.DrZ.cmarket.com. Click on the "register'' link near the top of the page. Fill in your information, including choosing a unique username (your e-mail works fine) and password. After you click "submit,'' you are registered for our auction. In order to place a bid, you must add a credit card to you account. When you go to place your first bid (or you can click on "my account'' in the upper right corner), follow the instructions to do so securely. Browse through the great items that have been donated for the auction and bid away. The bidding works like most online auction sites, and you can click on "help'' on any page to get answers to your questions.

Thank you, cmarket. It goes without saying we couldn't do this without you.

We'll be adding events and things in the next couple of weeks. So check back often. You can also buy tickets to the event online, if you'd rather purchase them that way instead of sending a check.

1. I think if I were Buffalo GM Russ Brandon, I wouldn't be thinking, "Eleven's too high to take Brandon Pettigrew.'' If I couldn't trade down four or five slots (and, as you can see by history above, the Bills don't trade much on draft day), I'd take the best all-around tight end to come out since -- well, since maybe Jeremy Shockey -- right there at No. 11.

2. I think if I were the Dolphins, I'd not only NOT trade Ronnie Brown, I'd expand his role. I wouldn't call him the perfect option man for the Wildcat offense, but I would say that as a triggerman for the offense last year, he did a great job of giving the defense a good run look with the slight threat of being able to throw the ball well. That's what a Wildcat option back should do.

3. I think time's growing short if you want to make a deal before draft day, Detroit. Sounds to me like the Lions are going to try to force Matthew Stafford to take a slightly below-market deal by using Aaron Curry as leverage, who would sign for less than Stafford. The problem, as I see it, is that the coach seems to have his hopes pinned to Stafford, and if the front office doesn't deliver, Jim Schwartz could be wondering what he's gotten himself into.

4. I think you made your bed, Chad Johnson. Now you've got to lay in it.

5. I think I'd like to apologize to you, Everette Brown. I don't have you in my mock draft for SI this week, and I fully expect you to be picked ... somewhere. I can't figure out where, and too many people in the bottom 20 of the round found too many holes in Brown.

6. I think, as I examine the Jason Peters deal -- first-, fourth- and sixth-round picks, with the first-rounder the 28th pick in Saturday's draft -- I think the Eagles got the major edge. "Other than Anthony Munoz, this is the most devastating blocker and pass-protector I've ever coached,'' said the retired and well-respected former NFL line coach Jim McNally, who mentored Peters from being a college tight end to one of the premier tackles in the game. "He's a terrific player and a good kid. What happened to him in Buffalo, I think, is he saw two linemen come in and make a lot of money [Derrick Dockery, Langston Walker], and he looked at them and said, 'I'm better than they are; why aren't I making that money?' And it really affected him. I think he'll be a dominating player in Philadelphia, and I don't think the money will affect him.'' We'll see.

7. I think -- no, I know -- Tennessee is not out of the Torry Holt derby.

8. I think I'm all for maximizing my draft booty, but I think the Bills are going too far in trying to deal Roscoe Parrish. He's one of the most dangerous weapons in the game, and I'd rather have four or five Parrish touches per game -- and the threat that each carries with it. Parrish is worth far more than the fourth- or fifth-round pick he'd bring back to Buffalo.

9. I think the Cardinals have to get serious about trading Anquan Boldin. He's not going to be happy there, and he's not going to bring back a first-round pick PLUS something else.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. I miss the Star-Ledger. Good, important newspaper.

b. So here's my quickie review of Citi Field: Really, really beautiful, roomy ballpark, with comfortable seats and, at least in the lower bowl, good sightlines. (Though I do hear the upper decks have some restricted-view seats.) I did note that, from my seat down the left-field line in the lower bowl, that I could see 79 ads around the stadium. It's a living, breathing billboard. The other thing I found very weird was the rotunda as you enter -- a tribute to the Brooklyn Dodgers, Ebbets Field and Jackie Robinson. Just weird. There's more Dodger stuff, prominently, than Mets stuff. I bet a 1969 Met would be pretty ticked off that there's more recognition for the old Dodgers than the old Mets.

c. These are the good ol' days for The Office.

d. I am a little melancholy that Mark Fidrych's death got so little recognition around the country. I was 19 when he was the biggest star of the summer, and he exploded onto the American scene. How about a guy who's on the cover of Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone? We don't have enough true characters in this game, and he was a genuine one. The thing I loved reading about Fidrych in the Boston Globe after he died was how he married a local girl in Massachusetts, and the family he married into had a restaurant, and the man who won 19 games for the Tigers in 1976 seamlessly went into the restaurant every Saturday night to wait tables. We'll miss guys like Fidrych.

e. Good luck, Cris Collinsworth. You won't need luck, though. Prepared, talented guys don't ever need luck.

f. How cool it was this morning dropping my brother-in-law, Bob Whiteley, at the Boston Common at 6:45 so he could board one of the hundreds of yellow school buses for the 45-minute ride to Hopkinton and the start of the Boston marathon. Good luck, Bob. What a great scene.

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